It may not be obvious to an outsider, but, I am not a big sweets person. Never was I the kid who ate tons of cakes, cookies or candy. Instead, when holidays came around I would stash the candy in my toy-box, for a rainy day. That rainy day usually never came around, and a few months later my mother would toss out the petrified candies.
Now don’t get me wrong I do love an occasional sweet. Like a piece, of really great chocolate, birthday cake, homemade ice cream or gelato, or buttery pastries when in Paris. What I do love most for dessert is comfort sweets, such as flan or creamy rice pudding. To me that is the ultimate comfort dessert.
I usually use a recipe that my great-aunt use to use. It involved cooking the rice ahead of time, then slowly cooking the rice with milk, sugar and egg yolks. Time consuming. I love it, but, at times I just do not want to make a custard base nor precook my rice, I just want a bowl of comfort.
A while back I discovered, if I used arborio rice, the process was simplified. Arborio rice is normally used in risotto dishes as it creates a creamy rice base for many delicious add-ons. When using for a sweet dessert, I replace the stock with whole milk and heavy cream, and I add a little sugar. After stirring, stirring and stirring, a creamy reward is left for me to devour.
While an ordinary bowl, of rice pudding is delightful, I decided to kick it up a notch with this recipe. Keeping with the season, I poached Seckel pears with star anise, an orange peel, vanilla bean and sugar. To add a bit of depth, I made burnt caramel sauce, as I thought it would be a terrific addition with the slightly spicy pears and creamy bowl of rice. I was right, it was heavenly. Every bite was smooth, creamy, and spicy with a hint of smokiness. What are you waiting for, get cooking!
Rice Pudding with Burnt Caramel Drizzle
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1 cup heavy cream
Place all of the ingredients, except the heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and stir often to prevent sticking or burning. After 15 minutes, the mixture should be reduced by half. Stir in the heavy cream. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the rice is cooked, about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. I like to leave the vanilla bean in with the rice, but you can remove at this point. Place the rice pudding into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to enjoy.
Poached Seckel Pears
- 4 Seckel pears, washed, skin left on
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 2 star anise
- 1 medium piece of orange peel
- 3 cups of water
Place all of the ingredients except the pears into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the pears to the mixture. Simmer for 20 minutes. Place the pears and poaching liquid into a large bowl. Place in the refrigerator to cool.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Place the sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring the pan occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and golden brown. Carefully stir in the cream, it will splatter at first.
Evenly divide the rice pudding between four bowls. Drizzle with some of the burnt caramel and top with a poached pear. Serve. Eat.
All photos styled and taken by Denise Woodward.
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